Pentagon Accused of Organizing Shiite Torture Squads

Witnesses put key US military personnel at torture sites

By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 6, 2013 1:44 PM CST

(Newser) – The Pentagon directly oversaw the creation of a Shiite militia force that set up secret detention sites and tortured opponents during the US occupation of Iraq, as part of American attempts to put down the budding Sunni insurgency, according to a new report by the Guardian that is being called "staggering." Colonel James Steele, a 58-year-old retired special forces veteran of "dirty wars" campaigns in Central America, was chosen by Donald Rumsfeld to organize the paramilitary forces. A second adviser, retired Colonel James H. Coffman, worked closely with Steele and reported directly to David Petraeus.

"They knew everything that was going on there ... the torture, the most horrible kinds of torture," says General Muntadher al-Samari, who spent a year working with Steele and Coffman while the Shiite militias were being organized. The allegations are backed up by several others, including journalists who say they were with Steele when torture was being performed nearby. Steele and Coffman had no comment on the charges, while a spokesman for Petraeus said the general always reported incidents of torture he discovered. Full investigation here.

Iraqi prisoners are seen at al-Muthanna prison in Baghdad, Iraq, May 2, 2010.   (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)
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